of the Portinari's bank at Milan in 1480, had also been in the East.1

M. Eugene Piot's opinion, as quoted by M. de Geymiiller, is to the effect that the letters addressed to the Diodario might be explained in another fashion. It was not unusual in Leonardo's time to discuss contemporary matters in an allegorical form, as did the author of the Letters of Phalaris and the Letters of the Grand Turk. Gilberto Govi, who was deeply versed in Leonardo's writings, did not hesitate to put forward an analogous theory in a communication made to the Academy of Science in 1881: "The notes on Mount Taurus, Armenia, and Asia Minor," wrote the lamented professor, "were borrowed from some contemporary geographer or traveller. The imperfect index attached to these fragments leads us to suppose that Leonardo intended to use them for a book, which he never finished. In any case, these fragments cannot be accepted as proofs of his having travelled in the East, or of his supposed conversion to Islamism. Leonardo was passionately fond of geography; geographical allusions, itineraries, descriptions of places, outline maps and topographical sketches are of frequent occurrence in his writings. It is not surprising, therefore, that he, a skilled writer, should have projected a sort of romance in the form of letters, the scene of which was to be Asia Minor, a region concerning which contemporary works, and perhaps the descriptions of some travelled friend, had supplied him with elements more or less fantastic."

Abandoning this theory of a sojourn in the East, we have still to enquire into the circumstances which led to Leonardo's establishment at the Court of the Sforzi, so famous for its splendour and its corruption. What was the date of this memorable migration, which resulted not only in the creation of the Milanese school, but in setting the seal of perfection on the master's own works? The author of the anonymous life of Leonardo published by Milanesi says that the artist was thirty years old when Lorenzo the Magnificent sent him, with Atalante Migliarotti, to present a lute to the Duke of Milan. According to Vasari, however, Leonardo took this journey on his own

1 De Geymiiller, Les derniers Travaux sur Leonard de Vina, p. 51.

initiative. The two biographers are agreed as to the episode of the lute: "Leonardo," says one, "was to play the lute to this prince, a passionate lover of music. He arrived, carrying an instrument he had fashioned himself; it was made almost entirely of silver, and shaped like a horse's skull. The shape was strange and original, but it gave a more sonorous vibration to the sounds. Leonardo was the victor in this competition, which was open to a large number of musicians, and proved himself the most extraordinary improvisatore of his day. Lodovico, charmed by his facile and brilliant eloquence, loaded him with praises and caresses." J

As regards the intervention of Lorenzo the Magnificent, the version given by the anonymous biographer is in every respect probable. Lorenzo perpetually played the part of intermediary between artist and Mecaenas. We find him undertaking missions of this nature for the King of Naples, the Dukes of Milan, the King of Hungary, and even for civic bodies. We know that it was not the only service of the kind he rendered Lodovico Sforza. A few years later he sent the Duke the famous Florentine architect Giuliano da San Gallo, who began the building of a palace for him.

But when we turn to the date of the journey we are confronted by all sorts of contradictions. Vasari gives 1493, Messrs. Morelli and Richter 1485, the majority of modern critics 1483. Herr MiillerWalde puts forward the end of 1481, or the beginning of 1482.2

Let us examine these various hypotheses. A writer of the sixteenth century, Sabba da Castiglione, says that Leonardo devoted sixteen years to the model for the equestrian statue of Lodovico Sforza, which he finally abandoned in 1499. Deducting sixteen from the last named date, we get the year 1483. On the other hand, documents in the archives of Milan show that Leonardo was established there in 1487, 1490, and 1492. The date 1493 advanced by Vasari must therefore

1 A learned Milanese, Mazzenta, who owned some of Leonardo's manuscripts, relates that the artist played very skilfully on a great silver lyre of twenty-four strings, and adds that he was perhaps the maker of the "arcicembalo," which was formerly preserved with his drawings in the Via San Prospero (Piot, Le Cabinet de I'Amateur, 1861-1862, p. 62; Govi, II Buonarroti, 1873). Libri further declares that Leonardo's design for the lute was among his papers, and also a design for a viol.

2 Jahrbuch der kg. Pr. Kunstsammlungen, 1897, pp. 107, 120-121, 126.

be put aside unconditionally. But the brilliant Italian connoisseur Morelli, whose paradoxes made such a sensation in Germany some years ago, relies on the testimony of this same Vasari to show that Leonardo was still at Florence in 1484.

"After the departure of Verrocchio for Venice, that is to say in 1484," says the biographer, "Giovanni Francesco Rustici, who had known Leonardo in Verrocchio's studio, took up his abode with the young master, who had a great affection for him." But Rustici, who was born in 1474, was only ten years old at the date of Verrocchio's departure, and can hardly have studied under this master or under Leonardo. It was more probably after his return to his native city in 1504 that Leonardo gave advice and lessons to his young friend. It was then that he helped Rustici in the operation of casting his three statues for the Baptistery. This view of the matter is confirmed by Vasari's statement, that Rustici learnt more especially to model horses in relief and in camaieu from Leonardo. Now, Leonardo was much more occupied with studies of this kind in 1504, after his long labours on the statue of Sforza, and when he was working at the Battle of Anghiari, than in [484. (It is interesting to note that in his memorial to Lodovico il Moro, Leonardo already proclaims himself capable of executing the equestrian statue of Francesco.) For these various reasons we must accept 1483 as the date of Leonardo's journey to Milan, until proof to the contrary is brought forward. This date agrees with the statement of the anonymous writer according to whom Leonardo (born in 1452) was thirty years old when he settled in Milan.

In spite of the mystery that rests on the first period of Leonardo's life, we are justified in saying that at an age when other artists are still in search of their true vocation, he had already grappled with the most diverse branches of human learning, and that in painting, he had developed a style so individual that posterity has agreed to call it by the name of its inventor. Instruction has but slight influence on natures so profoundly original as his ; and on the whole Leonardo, like Michelangelo, can have received little from his master beyond some general indications, and the revelation of certain technical processes. If his early career nevertheless lacked the dclat that marked Michelangelo's beginnings, it was the result of the fundamental difference of their genius. Leonardo, the dreamer, the enquirer, the experimentalist, pursued an infinity of problems, and was as deeply interested in processes as in results. Michelangelo, on the other hand, struck but a single blow at a time, but it was decisive; his thought was so clearly defined in his own brain from the first, that it was readily communicated to others. Violent and concrete works such as his make the deepest impression on the mass of mankind. Thus Buonarroti had all Florence for his worshippers from the first; whereas Leonardo, appreciated only by a few of the subtler spirits, had to seek his fortune elsewhere. It is not a matter for regret, as far as his own fame is concerned; but it has robbed Florence of one of her titles to glory.

[graphic][ocr errors][merged small]



[merged small][graphic][subsumed]


Qui, come Tape al mel, viennc ogni dotto,
Di virtuosi lia la sua corta piena;
Da Fiorenza un' Appclle ha qui condotto.
Bellincioni, Vision?.

[ocr errors]

EONARDO'S sojourn in Milan

coincides with Italy's last days

of brightness, and with the

dawn of a martyrdom which was to

last three centuries and a half. The

year 1490 is the fateful date which

marks both the culminating points ot

a long series of successes, and what we

should now call the beginning of the end.

One alarming symptom, and one often

observed at the outset of certain grave

maladies, was the sense of security, of

well-being, of almost sensuous pleasure,

experienced by Italy at this psychological moment. "The year

1490, wherein our fair city (Florence), glorious in her riches, her


Hraun, CUraent & Co.
(Windsor Library.)

« 上一頁繼續 »